Brand New Friend: Northern Ireland band prepare for biggest show yet after lockdown setback

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They’ve backed Snow Patrol, Kodaline, Ash and Lewis Capaldi, but now five-time Northern Irishman Brand New Friend are gearing up for their biggest show yet.

he indie rock band, made up of three siblings from Castlerock and two friends from Belfast, were gaining momentum around the release of their EP, A Cure for Living, when Covid-19 broke out, forcing them to cancel a series of concerts.

The five – Lauren, Taylor and Logan Johnson, Aaron Milligan and Luke Harris – managed to squeeze in two dates in Portrush and Dublin before the lockdown restrictions were introduced, but their highly anticipated flagship show at Voodoo in Belfast was withdrawn a few days before it was to take place.

The band stayed in touch with their fans during the lockdown, recording live sessions and even hosting a tour of the Johnson home, performing in every room of the house. But it was not the same.

Now, a year and a half after that canceled show, the five are swapping online gigs for the real thing, with a show at the Black Box on Saturday, October 16. The Brand New Friend show will be one of the first unseated shows in Northern Ireland since the start of the pandemic.

Lauren, who shares vocals with her brother Taylor, said: “After releasing our debut album Seatbelts for Airplanes in 2018, we’ve had a whirlwind few years backing bands like Snow Patrol and Ash.

“We had built up a fan base and then at the end of 2019 we recorded our EP, A Cure for Living. It was released in February 2020, which of course was bad timing.

“We managed to play a few gigs but the tour was supposed to culminate with our big gig in Belfast and we were so disappointed that we couldn’t do that and perform our new songs.

“This new show means we can play these songs now and preview new material we’ve written during lockdown which will make it even more special.”

The band, which was part of the backing bands for Snow Patrol’s Ward Park 3 show, received encouragement and mentorship from local musicians, including Tim Wheeler and Gary Lightbody. Starting out as an indie/pop duo, with Lauren and Taylor, they recruited Aaron, who plays lead guitar, and Luke, who plays drums. The band was completed when they brought in their younger brother Logan to play bass.

“When we supported Snow Patrol at Ward Park 3, Logan was in the middle of his GCSEs,” Lauren said.

“He had to take time out of his exams to put on the show, but there was no way we were missing that opportunity.”

Brand New Friend have written material for their upcoming album, which they hope to record soon with producer Danny Ball. In the meantime, they’re focusing on their biggest flagship show, which they believe will be a big moment not just for them, but for the local music scene.

“Obviously we’ve played huge venues when we’ve supported other artists, but this is our biggest headliner at the Black Box and we can’t wait.

“This feels like a big moment not just for our band, but for live music as a whole.

“It’s going to be special to get back on stage and we just want everyone to have the best time possible.”

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